Atlantic League Ratifies New Pace of Play Initiatives

Atlantic League LogoPRESS RELEASE – The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (ALPB) today announced that it has ratified six measures to begin August 1 and continue for the remainder of the 2014 season. The ALPB will test the effectiveness of the new rules and their ability to speed up games and keep fans engaged. All rules will be subject to future evaluation by the Pace of Play Committee and the ALPB Board of Directors.

The Pace of Play Committee is chaired by Tal Smith, former President of the Houston Astros and comprised of former MLB executives and players with over 250 years of collective experience in the Major Leagues, including Pat Gillick, Roland Hemond, Joe Klein, Cecil Cooper, Bud Harrelson and Sparky Lyle. Through July 11, 2014, they reviewed ideas and suggestions from various sources. After thorough evaluation, the Committee recommended the following six measures be adopted by the Atlantic League for immediate implementation during the balance of the 2014 ALPB season:

”Limited Time-Outs” Rule: The defensive team will be limited to three “time-outs” per game, in which mound visits or on-field conferences take place with the current pitcher. Pitching changes will not be counted as “time-outs,” and in the case of extra innings, one additional “time-out” will be permitted at the start of the 10th inning and every three innings thereafter. Umpires will enforce a strict forty-five second time limit on said “time-outs.” If the umpire’s warning is disregarded by the defensive team and play continues to be delayed, the umpire shall declare a “ball” for the batter at the plate. This will limit the number of times play is interrupted by on-the-field conferences.

The “Substitute-Runner for the Catcher” Rule: When a catcher reaches base safely as a batter, the manager will immediately insert a substitute-runner who is not currently in the line-up to take the catcher’s place on base. This ensures that the start of an inning is not delayed while waiting for the catcher to suit up.

Reduced Number of Warm-Up Pitches: Reduce the number of preparatory “warm-up” pitches at the beginning of an inning, or when a relief pitcher enters the game, from eight pitches to six, within 60 seconds. Timing is consistent with Rule 8.03 stating preparatory pitches shall not consume more than one minute of time.

Automatic Awarding of an Intentional Walk: When a manager or catcher on the defensive team indicates to the home plate umpire they wish to issue an intentional base on balls, the batter is to be automatically awarded first base without the need for the pitcher to deliver four balls.

Directing Umpires to Apply and Enforce Rule 6.02 and Rule 8.04: The Atlantic League office shall intensify its directives to the umpires and direct them to be more diligent applying and enforcing Rule 6.02 (restricting batters “stepping out” of the batter’s box) and Rule 8.04 (requiring the pitcher to deliver the ball within 12 seconds when the bases are unoccupied).

Directing Umpires to Control the Pace of Play: ALPB umpires shall be reminded that they control the pace of play and that they need to exercise that control and move the game along in a timely manner. The umpires shall adhere to the entire strike zone as defined in Rule 2.00 and observe that definition when calling pitches balls or strikes.

Rick White, President of the Atlantic League said, “We are excited to put these new efforts in place and observe how they impact the pace of play. We hope that these measures, along with others being considered, not only enhance the game for the Atlantic League but serve as a model for other leagues.”

The average professional game time in the 1970’s was approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes, whereas today more than half of all nine-inning games exceed 3 hours. When Babe Ruth hit his 60th home run in 1927, the box score reported game time as 1 hour and 38 minutes. Many feel that the growing amount of “down time” during games is a larger concern than the length of the games; hence the Atlantic League has created the Pace of Play Committee. Their suggestions, recommendations and findings will be published on the Atlantic League website (www.AtlanticLeague.com) and made available for review by any interested parties.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Atlantic League Ratifies New Pace of Play Initiatives

  1. umpireplb

    Aligning the new Atlantic League rule more closely with the NCAA rule regarding defensive conferences makes sense, but some of the other changes do not – at least they make less sense than other approaches not being implementing. Requiring umpires to enforce the batter’s box rule and the 12-second pitching rule? Absolutely, and spotty enforcement is indeed a problem all over professional baseball. But rather than place the onus of keeping track of the elapsed time on the umpires, why not have a buzzer that clearly indicates to everyone in the ballpark when a pitcher or batter has exceeded the time permitted him to either get back on the hill or in the box? This has been done with great success for a long time at the NBC tournament in Wichita, Kansas, where the average time for a nine-inning game runs less than two hours, similar to the good old days. But using “speed-up” for the catcher? Not necessary, and vaguely disquieting: all a defensive team has to do is make sure a substitute catcher is out there warning up the pitcher while the catcher already in the line-up is putting his gear back on. Reduced number of warm-up pitches between half-innings? Again, not necessary, and this unfairly penalizes the pitcher, who may very well complete his eight permissible warmups (under the old rules) in under 60 seconds. Why not use just the time limit, again with a buzzer to let everyone know when the 60 seconds have expired, instead of a time limit AND a pitch count, which seems redundant? And finally, automatic awarding of an intentional walk: I strongly disagree with this move. The requirement in the Official Baseball Rules that a pitcher must throw those four pitches to a batter is there for a reason, and removing it changes the dynamic of an at-bat in a way that takes away from, not adds to, the beauty of the game. And how much time will this particular move save anyway? Say each team issues three intentional walks during a game, which is a lot; the time saved by putting the batter on automatically is probably not more than five or six minutes total, but the element of anticipation that a batter just might reach out and whack that pitch would also be lost, and the value of those few minutes saved would not outweigh the loss of the suspense or the mystery in this equation, at least not to me.

    If umpires are meticulous about enforcing the batter’s box rule, putting a new ball back in play as soon as one is fouled out, not allowing any time-wasting by either team, and setting an example of hustle and focus to the players – all invisible yet critical skills employed by highly proficient umpires – those other changes won’t even be necessary.

    • Edward Roberts

      I attended the NBC tournament in Wichita last year and was surprised how great their time clock worked. Pitchers and hitters didn’t waste time, the pace of play was great and the clock only expired about once a game. The clock should be run by a minor official in the press box with a buzzer just like the NBA time clock.
      As for the between innings time issues, pitcher and catcher warm ups, it is much less important since the time between innings is usually filled with on-field promotions (commercials in MLB) and quick visits to the concessions and rest rooms.
      I’d highly recommend anyone interested in how to improve pace of play to check out the NBC tournament.

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